The Julian Lage Trio at Signal Kitchen

Doug Collette By

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The Julian Lage Trio
Signal Kitchen
Burlington, Vermont
May 9, 2016

Burlington Vermont's Signal Kitchen offered the Julian Lage trio a more confined, but ostensibly more hip atmosphere than the venue of the guitarist's last visit to Vermont when he played the assembly hall of a church outside the Queen City. But the meeting of minds between a knowledgeable audience and an intelligent band was the same, the end result an exquisite concert experience, albeit one somewhat truncated in length at seventy minutes plus (not including meet & greet afterwards.

When Julian Lage plays, he selects, with surgical precision, the currents of melody and rhythm he wants to utilize and this mid-spring evening, he did so while simultaneously maintaining veritable telepathic empathy between himself and his co-musicians. On this tour, the guitarist again has the venerable Kenny Wolleson on drums with bass mastering supplied by Jorge Roeder and the trio romped and tantalized their way through their set with a playful, but nonetheless authoritative approach to a range of material echoing that captured on Lage's most recent studio recording Arclight (Mack Avenue, 2016).

In fact, the threesome gained their collective footing Monday night with a small handful of selections from the album, including "Nocturne" and WC Handy's "Harlem Blues," the momentum they generated leading, with some discernible logic, to the more up-tempo likes of "Presley" and "'Prospero." Lage really began to shine at this point, his lightning fast switches from deft soloing to chordal flourishes wholly precluding any sense of playing too correctly. With its an exotic intro and outro sandwiching a heavy shuffle, Charles Lloyd's "Island Blues" was thus perfectly placed in the set,

Such an earthy progression ended up the precursor to the atonal likes of "Activate" and "Stop Go Start," where the Lage trio enacted a study in contrasts, tossing shards of noise around with their respective instruments, the cacophonous atmosphere they conjured up set in motion with a subdued but ingenious percussion segment from Wollesen: Lage and Roeder savored watching and listening to this interval as much as the drummer was seemingly enraptured by the galloping double bass solo moments before.

The Julian Lage Trio seemingly enjoyed their return to Vermont venue as much as the attendees, so when the leader offered his debt of gratitude for the turnout, it hardly sounded pro forma, but rather heartfelt (and his solicitation of CD sales almost apologetic). But the fact is that, while the show wasn't presented as a mere replication of the Arclight tracks, closing the set proper with the number that concludes the record, "Ryland," imbued the air inside and out of the downtown Burlington location with a fitting finality.

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